SOUTHINGTON - Southington girls basketball head coach Mike Forgione was at a loss for words.
After the Blue Knights dropped a third-straight game by four or less points in a 54-50 loss to RHAM Tuesday night, Forgione sat on a table outside the locker room with his head in his hands, searching for answers in a season that has been filled with unexpected setbacks and heartbreaking finishes.
“I really don’t know what to say,” Forgione said after Southington let multiple fourth-quarter leads slip away to the Sachems. “It’s just been a hard year for everybody. I’ve never been through something like this in my career.”
The Blue Knights’ 5-12 showing up to this point is not the only symptom of Forgione’s disbelief. The fall from last season’s success has been swift and drastic, and the program’s 16-7 finish last year that included 11 wins in the season’s final 12 games feels like a painfully long time ago.
This season was expected to be a step back for the Southington program, though maybe the regression wasn’t anticipated to be of this magnitude. The lone senior on the Blue Knights last year, 1,000-point scorer Janette Wadolowski, left behind a massive void the Southington offense is still scrambling to fill.
“We have to learn how to all contribute to points, because last year we had an elite player in Janette Wadolowski, so everyone getting their points needs to be our goal,” Southington’s Brianna Harris said after scoring 15 points in the loss to RHAM. “We just need to have everyone contribute.”
There were supposed to be alternate sources of offense to help contribute, but an injury to Allison Carr and the loss of Madison Hulten has only made the Blue Knights’ holes more glaring, in a season where every bit of offense was going to be desperately needed. The result has been added frustrations to an extent that nobody saw coming.
“Losing Janette was like losing three players,” Forgione said. “She was one of the top two or three players in the state. Then we lost Allison and we lost Madison ... It’s killing us.”
Southington’s slide is new and unfamiliar territory for Forgione, who has consistently averaged 15 wins per season as a head coach. While it’s a struggle he had never endured up to this point, there are still positives to take away. Close losses against a tough schedule can be as brutal as they are encouraging, and even after seeing their offense gutted in the offseason and early parts of the regular season, the Blue Knights have continued to battle.
“We just can’t catch a break with this schedule or this season,” Forgione said. “We’re so much better than a 5-12 team. We really are. These girls deserve to play in the state tournament.”
To play in the state tournament, Southington would have to win each of its last three games, which would put the team at the eight-win mark. The offense will have to improve, as will the defense in crunch time if the Blue Knights want to pull it off. Despite a season of frustrations that has often left the head coach speechless, a small glimmer of hope at a state tournament berth still remains. As long as it’s possible, the team won’t stop battling, even if recent history has delivered painfully close defeats.
“We’re still fighting,” Harris said. “We’re learning how to cope with [close losses] and keep our head in it no matter what the score is. After each game we’re like, ‘we’re still in this.’ We just have to keep playing and keep fighting.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org